The fashion industry still has a bias towards white men and they outnumber anyone else in executive roles, a new report shows.
The findings from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) showed that the lack of diversity has made black employees feel as if they “don’t belong” to organizations, with two in three black employees (63%) reporting that they are regularly the “only” black person in the room. This, in turn, has led to an increase in pressure to perform and represent their identity.
The report – called the State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion – also revealed that just 57% of black fashion industry employees believed that their company was doing enough when it came to racial and gender inclusivity, compared with 77% of their white colleagues. Less than half of black employees believed that inclusivity measures would result in permanent change.
Last year, following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police and the Black Lives Matter protests, many fashion brands and shops were called to task for the apparent schism between their statements of solidarity and own their issues of structural racism from the shop floor to the executive level.
Another issue that came from the report was an economic one: 37% of black employees reported having to supplement their income compared with just 23% of their white counterparts. The study also found that the low-paying nature of internships could also affect black employees’ subsequent chances of employment.
“After a year like 2020 some may have been falsely under the impression that the old guard was changing. It wasn’t,” said Amber Nicole Alston, founder of Hyphenate Management. “Like most other industries, fashion has suffered from the Mad Men syndrome – the idea that successful leaders look and navigate the world in one specific way. That affects who is offered a seat at the table and who gains the power to create the kind of change that would genuinely make the industry equitable.”
The report surveyed 1,000 fashion industry professionals, across 41 companies and three focus groups, during the autumn of 2020.
The CFDA itself has been solid in its actions fighting racism in the fashion industry.
In August they announced the promotion of CaSandra Diggs, a black woman, to chief administrative and financial officer. She has worked with the company since 2001.
The organisation also joined forces with Harlem’s Fashion Row to create the ICON 360 Fund, a million-dollar fund to help designers of color affected by the pandemic.